Back in 2013 Joss Whedon released a black and white film modern version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, filmed in his house. Edmonton’s Thou Art Here Theatre version of Much Ado About Nothing is Calgary Lougheed House has that same charming, romantic feel. It’s because the company has smartly made the play site specific to the Lougheed House, the audience moving through, inside and outside and it’s also because the cast is immensely talented. This production has all of what makes the play romantic, funny and a pleasure to be a part of.
Taking place in the historic museum of the Lougheed House, Thou Art Here has the audience watch Leonato (Doug Mertz) talking with his daughter Hero (Lara Schmitz) and his niece Beatrice (Gianna Vacirca). They all project from the balcony of the Lougheed House, while the audience watches from the courtyard. We then meet Don Pedro (Neil Kuefler), Claudio (Evan Hall) and Benedick (Ben Stevens) along with Don Pedro’s sister Don Joan (Alyson Dicey) and Borachio (Paula Humby). The audience is led through different rooms by different characters, to a masked party in the main hall, to a wedding on the lower floor.
The key to Much Ado About Nothing is you need a playful Benedicks and Beatrices. They need to have mastered the Shakespearean language. They have to bring great physical comedy. They are the give and take relationship. And in this production Vacirca and Stevens have great chemistry and take on the comedy of being set up with each other in stride. This production also has the emotional pull, especially in the first wedding when Hero is shamed and rejected. Director Andrew Ritchie has everyone in the wedding party stand physically facing Schmitz in this scene and it really illustrates how society is shaming her.
Oscar Derkx plays Verges and Elena Belyea plays Dogberry and they are both a comedic duo. As the audience is standing outside, the actors just having left into the house, Dogberry and Verges arrive on bicycles shouting ‘are you a volunteer audience?’
Thou Art Here Theatre has thrown in some great little audience participation roles. A member of the audience helps to bring out Hero’s downfall. One audience member is picked to be the Friar. Another is the constable of the group. Much Ado About Nothing is a great play to put in the space of the Lougheed House, and the company has created an amazing adaptation. It’s a great immersive experience.
Thou Art Here Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is sold out, for the entire run. More information is available here.